MQM convener quits cabinet, but party to remain PTI’s ally

January 13, 2020

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KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui addresses the press conference on Sunday.—Online
KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui addresses the press conference on Sunday.—Online

KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui on Sunday announced that he was resigning as federal minister for information technology and telecom cabinet as the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) did not fulfil its promises, but his party would continue to support the Imran Khan-led government.

The MQM made it clear that it had no plan to ask its lawmaker Farogh Nasim to quit the federal cabinet though the ruling PTI without asking his party had given the portfolio of law to him, because they needed ‘best lawyer’, Dr Siddiqui said, adding that his party was promised one more ministry but the PTI despite repeated assurances did not fulfil its promise.

The ruling PTI had given two ministries to MQM lawmakers after the two coalition partners had signed a nine-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) in August 2018.

“We are not quitting the [federal] government...we will continue to support it,” Dr Siddiqui told a press conference at the party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad. “We hope that [the PTI] will address our grievances by implementing the MoU.”

Imran assures Siddiqui of looking into Muttahida’s legitimate concerns

Being the MQM convener, he said, he did not deem it right to continue to stick with the federal government that had done nothing for the urban areas of Sindh during the past one and a half years.

Later in the evening, senior MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari told Dawn that after Dr Siddiqui’s presser Prime Minister Imran Khan personally contacted the MQM-P convener and assured him that he would look into his party’s legitimate concerns.

Dr Siddiqui’s announcement came around two weeks after Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s public offer that the PPP was ready to embrace the MQM as a coalition partner in Sindh provided it helped the opposition in bringing down the PTI-led federal government.

Dr Siddiqui told the presser that his decision to quit the federal cabinet had nothing to do with the “recent offer of ministries from a party”. He explained that the MQM had supported the PTI government for strengthening the democratic system, but till date it did not see any serious headway on even one of the many points of the MoU it had signed with the PTI.

Accompanied by senior leaders Nasreen Jalil, Amir Khan, Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar, Kanwar Naveed and others, the MQM convener said the PM had performed the groundbreaking of Hyderabad University in Islamabad but no practical work on it had been started yet. He said the federal government despite repeated promises did not release funds for development projects of Karachi.

“According to official figures, Karachi contributed 89 per cent in sales tax and we are only asking for [Karachi’s] share from it. Karachi gives billions of rupees in revenue to the federation but get nothing,” he said.

The MQM convener said: “Ministries are not our problem...we want implementation on the MoUs signed in Bahadurabad and Banigala in its true spirit.”

Following the press conference, the PTI top leaders swung into action to assure the MQM that all its grievances would be addressed.

The premier also spoke to Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and asked him to play his role in pacifying the MQM.

In a series of tweets, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the MQM was an important coalition partner and it would remain so. She said a PTI delegation, headed by federal Planning Minister Asad Umer, would meet the MQM leadership on Monday (today) to address their concerns.

About Dr Siddiqui’s complaint of lack of funds for Karachi, she said the initiatives for the public welfare had been delayed due to economic constraints.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is committed to restore the glory of Karachi. We all have a consensus on progress of Karachi, protection of citizens’ basic rights and provision of resources. We are heading towards economic stabilisation and Karachi will also benefit from it,” she tweeted.

She said implementation of Rs162 billion relief package of Karachi had already begun. The federal government had given guarantee for international loans that the Sindh government had sought and it had provided “all possible resources” to Sindh under the National Finance Commission Award. “The government will remove all reservations of the MQM and fulfill all its promises,” she added.

In Karachi, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail contacted the MQM leadership over phone and assured them that their reservations with regard to Karachi were genuine and would be addressed soon.

He also told the media that the MQM left one ministry but did not quit the alliance with the PTI.

Another PTI minister Faisal Vawda contacted Senator Nasim and assured him of addressing the MQM concerns. He said the PTI would not let the MQM go.

In Swabi, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser said the PTI would remove all concerns of the MQM. He also expressed the hope that Dr Siddiqui would take back his resignation.

Also, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood said all grievances of the allied parties would be resolved through talks and that he was sure the MQM would remain part of the federal coalition.

The Muttahida has seven MNAs and five senators. While the PTI can survive without it in the National Assembly, the former needed the MQM support in Senate where it lacks a simple majority.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020